Football España Team of the Season 2023-24: Starting XI, back-ups, honourable mentions and apologies

With Real Madrid crowned Champions of both Spain and Europe, Kylian Mbappe, signed, sealed and nearly delivered, it’s time to look back on the best performers in Spanish football this season. Here’s your 2023-24 team of the season.

Goalkeeper

1- Giorgi Mamardashvili – Valencia

What the giant Georgian sometimes lacks in grace at times, and ball-playing accuracy, he more than makes up for with a series of brilliant saves. Valencia’s defence saw them challenge for Europe, and Mamardashvili was the best of the lot. Top of the league for expected goals against goals allowed, Mamardashvili will be sorely missed if he leaves.

2- Andriy Lunin – Real Madrid

It’s hard to believe that Andriy Lunin’s season has ended on a downer, given what an excellent year he’s had. The Ukrainian started off without Carlo Ancelotti’s confidence, beat out Kepa Arrizabalaga for starting spot, and won them several games. Not least in the penalty shootout against Manchester City. A hero arc with an anti-climactic ending, viewers should not forget his wonder-save against Sevilla too, which was Iker Casillas-like.

3- Alvaro Valles – Las Palmas

A difficult second half of the season shouldn’t obscure an outrageous first. Best goalkeeper with his feet in the league this season, he has a highlight reel that will earn him a good move this summer.

Honourable mention: Unai Simon (Athletic Club)

Right-back

1- Dani Carvajal – Real Madrid

Hard to look past the veteran right-back, who really led from the back this season. Arguably his finest at the club, he was dangerous in the final third early in the year, and shutdown a series to top opposition in the final third. This Carvajal is vintage, not old.

2- Yan Couto – Girona 

Quite unfortunate to miss out here. The Brazilian was a nuisance for almost everyone but Real Madrid, marauding down the right. He has a series of weapons in his locker, plenty of technical ability, and was key in La Liga’s most entertaining side.

3- Oscar Mingueza – Celta Vigo

Not who we expected to pull up here, but Mingueza stood out for a struggling Celta for much of the season. Used in various positions, his pinpoint crosses and tidy play in the final third became one of their best threats at times this season.

Centre-Back

1- Antonio Rudiger – Real Madrid

The sustaining force in the centre of defence for Carlo Ancelotti. Rudiger started the season as third-choice, and within 40 minutes, was commanding the backline, and hasn’t moved since. Real Madrid had the best defence in the league, and Rudiger was the glue holding it together.

2- Cristhian Mosquera – Valencia

Excellent debut season for the 19-year-old. He allowed Ruben Baraja’s defence to be more aggressive without getting caught out much, despite his age. Mosquera looks like he has all of the raw ability to make it to the top of the game.

3- Sergio Ramos – Sevilla

It’s been a rough season for Sevilla, but Sergio Ramos was a captain alongside Jesus Navas at the back. Quique Sanchez Flores set up his side to play with three centre-backs and much deeper in order to take advantage of Ramos’ quality, and he turned up in every big game of the season.

Honourable mention: Mika Marmol (Las Palmas) and Pau Cubarsi (Barcelona).

Centre-Back

1- Dani Vivian – Athletic Club

The outstanding member of La Liga’s second-best defence. Vivian’s pace, reading of the game and aggression made Los Leones a torrid side for any forward to come up against. Vivian excelled as the leader of a defence that lost Inigo Martinez, and has been rewarded with the Barcelona defender’s spot in the Spain squad.

2- Aitor Paredes – Athletic Club

Similarly quality season from Paredes, who won his place from Yeray due to injuries, and hung onto it with gritted teeth. Exciting times ahead for Ernesto Valverde with two quick and smart centre-backs in their side.

3- Eric Garcia – Girona

Notable season from Eric on loan from Barcelona. He was crucial for Michel Sanchez, who used him to take a step forward in Girona’s build-up. Scorer of five goals despite his lack of height, it’s his best season in professional football yet.

Honourable mentions: Daley Blind (Girona) and Abdel Aqbar (Alaves).

Left-Back

1- Miguel Gutierrez – Girona 

What a lovely footballer. Nominally a left-back, Miguel played inside, outside, and was everywhere too. Scoring in both of Girona’s wins over Barcelona, those were just examples of the chaos he has been causing for opposition midfields all season. Perhaps unlucky not to be in the Spain squad for the Euros based on performance, admittedly few will give him the freedom Michel Sanchez has .

2- Ferland Mendy – Real Madrid

A redemption season for the Frenchman, who has been derided in Madrid for multiple seasons, but showed once again why he plays for the best team in Europe. Mendy might not have the ability going forward that his colleagues do, but the value of just not having to worry about covering behind on flank is quite invaluable for a manager.

3- Diego Rico – Getafe

Few took too much notice when Real Sociedad loaned out Rico to Getafe, who was coming off a difficult season and entering his thirties. Yet seven assists speak to a revival under Jose Bordalas for Rico, who was fierce in the tackle and formidable going forward.

Honourable mention: Jose Gaya (Valencia)

Central Midfield

1- Jude Bellingham – Real Madrid

What to say that hasn’t been said already? Arrived as Real Madrid’s most expensive signing since Eden Hazard, took all of half an hour to impose himself, and never really stopped. Bellingham is perhaps the differential element for Los Blancos’ La Liga win, and he sustained some less than impressive early season performances. All at the age of 20, his debut season is unprecedented.

2 – Ivan Martin – Girona

Perhaps the least heralded of the Girona midfield, Quique Carcel signed a number of bargains last summer, but €2m very well spent. If Michel had a problem, moving Martin there was often the answer. Played all over the pitch, including full-back and up front, Martin reached levels of brilliance he maybe didn’t know he could.

3- Kirian Rodriguez – Las Palmas

Top in La Liga for touches (3,337) and progressive passes. Third for passes into the final third, 5th for through balls and progressive carrying distance, and 8th for successful take-on percentage. Had Las Palmas stayed the course, Kirian maybe would’ve found himself in the team, but nonetheless an outstanding season.

Honourable mention: Oihan Sancet (Athletic Club) and Jon Guridi (Alaves).

Central Midfield

1- Toni Kroos – Real Madrid

Kroos did not need to augment his status to go down as a legend, but going out in the way he has… It adds a certain debonaire tint to his career. One of the greatest to ever do it, fans will bicker based on preferences, but when people list off the players that defined an era at Real Madrid, it won’t take them too long to get to Kroos. The crazy thing was, this was one of his best seasons too.

2- Fede Valverde – Real Madrid

Fede Valverde is set to inherit the number eight from Kroos, which is fitting, because alongside the German, he had the most impact in the middle of the pitch for Los Blancos. Valverde scored less goals than last season, but showed a maturity and an imperious attitude to his game that goes far beyond sweet strikes and lung-busting runs.

3- Pepelu – Valencia

Just €5m Pepelu cost Valencia, and if they had any sense, he would cost his next club closer to €50m. The biggest difference between this season and last for Los Che was the stabilising element of Pepelu in the middle, which allowed those around him to think positively without stressing the structure too much.

Honourable mention: Samu Costa (RCD Mallorca)

Central Midfield

1- Alex Baena – Villarreal

At just 22 years of age, Villarreal spent most of the season hovering a little way above the relegation battle, and were it not for Baena, they might have been in it. He finishes the season with a total of 5 goals and 18 assists in 45 games. Domestically, that was 14 assists, the most of anyone in the top five European leagues. Playing in behind the forward, out wide, in central midfield, it didn’t matter where you put him, he was a nightmare for the opposition, exemplified by a hat-trick of assists against Rayo Vallecano.

2- Isco – Real Betis

The most painful omission of the lot. Isco’s outrageous man of the match record was measured against a late bout of injuries, and he was up against two Ballon d’Or candidates and the most productive creator in Europe.

Explanations aside, Isco returned to the magical footballer Spain fell in love with around a decade ago, and was the driving force for Real Betis this season. His inventiveness, ability to find space and deftness of touch remain at the very top of football.

3- Aleix Garcia – Girona

A slightly less impressive second half of the campaign have unfairly kept him out of the team. Garcia is conductor in chief of an historic Girona, and were national teams based on merit, then he would be a starter be a shoe-in for the squad. A solutions man, as Graham Hunter once dubbed Andres Iniesta, he masterminded many a comeback for Girona.

Honourable mentions: Ilkay Gundogan (Barcelona)

Right-forward

1- Antoine Griezmann – Atletico Madrid

Granted the final stretch of the season was not the ending Griezmann or Atletico wanted, the Frenchman was arguably the best player in Spain through January alongside Jude Bellingham, and that shouldn’t be forgotten. Rodrigo de Paul told us that Griezmann and Lionel Messi occupy similar roles for their respective sides, and it’s true – when Griezmann is good, so are Atletico.

2- Lamine Yamal – Barcelona

What a ridiculous talent Lamine Yamal is. It’s impossible not to mention his age, except when he’s actually on the pitch, when he and everyone else forgets just how young he is. The teenage sensation finished with 7 goals and gave 10 assists in 50 appearances, but the truth is, the magic moments he created deserved more from a misfiring side around him.

3- Inaki Williams – Athletic Club

Athletic Club can feel a little unlucky that Real Madrid and Girona’s exploits have robbed their Copa del Rey win of some of its headline status, but it’s an historic win, and Inaki Williams led the way. Back on the right of attack, he’s a different beast, and his incessant effort, blistering speed and improved finishing have been key for brilliant season.

Centre-Forward

1- Artem Dovbyk – Girona

Arriving at Girona from Dnipro, even those who were aware of Dovbyk had to admit that they ‘weren’t familiar with his game’. Dovbyk provided all of the pace and power he promised, but sprinkled in neat touches and intelligent movement. 24 goals, a Pichichi award, and 8 assists, Dovbyk didn’t even start until week five of the season. The best striker in the league this season.

2- Alexander Sorloth – Villarreal

Seeing Dobyk grab a hat-trick to beat him to the Pichichi in his last game was a cruel blow, having put four past Real Madrid, but it’s arguably the best season of his career in a top league. The Norwegian scored 23 goals and gave six assists, and as we’ve established, it wasn’t an easy season for the Yellow Submarine. If this is his prime, we’re in for a treat.

3- Ante Budimir – Osasuna

An injury late in the season might have ended his Pichichi hopes, but the veteran Croatian had a fine season in Pamplona. Osasuna were not as formidable as last year, and yet maintained another solid midtable finish thanks to Budimir’s goals. He won the third-most headers in La Liga too, and was lethal in a below-par attack.

Honourable mentions: Borja Mayoral (Getafe), Robert Lewandowski (Barcelona), Gorka Guruzeta (Athletic Club) and Jorgen Strand Larsen (Celta Vigo).

Left-Forward

1- Vinicius Junior – Real Madrid

If it wasn’t for a first half of the season hampered by injuries, he might have ended any debate on the Ballon d’Or conversation, and he probably would’ve ended as top scorer too. The Brazilian scored 24 goals and gave 11 assists in total this season, averaging a goal contribution every 88 minutes. Vinicius no longer feels secondary with the arrival of Kylian Mbappe, but rather a partner in attack, which is a measure of his performances.

2- Savio – Girona

Another of the tremendously unfortunate club, Savio had a sensational season, and is in the argument for Girona’s player of the season. His 11 goals and 10 assists won’t do justice the rings that he ran around almost every defence in Spain this season. Few knew his name before he arrived, and he’s off to the Copa America with Brazil in the summer. In Michel’s words, the most talented player he’s ever had.

3- Nico Williams – Athletic Club

Another casualty of being in the same position as Vinicius, outside of the two ahead of him, it’s not unfair to call him the best wide player in the division. Williams gave 25 goal contributions in 37 games, and was second in the assist charts for La Liga. At 21 years of age, he added strings to his attacking bow, and became the number one threat for Athletic.

Honourable mention: Samuel Lino (Atletico Madrid)

Coach

1- Michel Sanchez – Girona

Only with the passing of the years will the size of Michel’s achievement become clear. This is Girona’s fourth season in La Liga, and in the previous seasons, their highest finish was 10th. It’s not just that he finished third with this Girona side, spending less than €60m in wages, it’s that he did playing brave and electrifying football. Every Girona fan you speak to will talk about the how as well as the what of Girona’s season, and Michel has to take plenty of credit.

2- Ernesto Valverde – Athletic Club

40 years Athletic Club have waited for the moment that Ernesto Valverde delivered. Four decades ago, he was starting out as a player. Valverde had to be the coach to deliver their long-awaited Copa del Rey title, and he will be given his place in history as a result. Clearly, Athletic have a good team, but few saw them winning a trophy or finishing fifth this season, even if the final stretch was a touch disappointing, but if it weren’t for Girona’s absurd season, he’d have be taking Girona into the Champions League next season.

3- Carlo Ancelotti – Real Madrid

Frankly it’s a little ridiculous that Ancelotti has not won this award, but Los Blancos have won nine Champions Leagues since Athletic last did what Valverde managed, and Girona will likely never achieve what they did again. Don Carlo got pretty much every decision right, rode out injuries, took brave calls, and foresaw different roles for Vinicius and Bellingham the two keys to their two triumphs. Almost everything went right, and more than other seasons, Carletto was behind that.

Honourable mentions: Luis Garcia Plaza (Alaves) and Ruben Baraja (Valencia).

The post Football España Team of the Season 2023-24: Starting XI, back-ups, honourable mentions and apologies appeared first on Football España.

You Might Also Like

Leave a Reply